It’s now approaching spring and I am sure you have picked up a few magazines either this year or in the past and read where they suggest you go. I can almost bet that it’s the same places they have been saying to go for the last ten years. You have gone to some of these places and you have found out that sure there may be a few turkeys there but there are more hunters than you care to deal with and now you’re looking for more information. Research is your friend and there is a lot of information to sort through.
Before you start trying to locate birds you need to know how to locate birds and turkeys are easy to locate just not so easy to hunt. Magazines and people on hunting shows will tell you to walk around and look for roosting trees and blow crow calls and listen for birds. Sure that’s fairly decent advice, walk around in the woods, scaring the turkeys into another valley and if that doesn’t work start blowing a crow call and hoping the turkeys forget that crows eat their eggs and their chicks. Don’t get me wrong I know this works but think about, if you’re on public land how many people may have walked through that valley blowing coyote calls and tromping around, then once season starts bad calling, shotgun blasts and guys walking all over the place. It is no wonder the turkeys move out of the valley or shut down their calling and they become educated to humans.
Instead try a few tricks I have learned to locate birds. “Poop” is your friend. Yes turkey poop is your friend and a dead giveaway that they are in the area. Turkeys eat a lot and their poop or scat looks like big black or brown and white giant bird poop in the road. A Jake or Tom will have a “J” shaped turd and a Hen will produce a glob shaped turd.
Both birds depending on their age and diet will produce a significant amount (for a bird), a toms will be about the size and length of your middle finger, the glob the hen produces will be about the size of a small scoop of ice cream. Like I said turkeys poop a lot so if a flock crosses a dirt road you can just about bet that one of them will poop on it. Turkeys leave a very identifiable track. If you have never seen a turkey track, just enter “Turkey Track” on google and study a few of them before you go out. They leave tracks everywhere they walk and if they sit for more than a few minutes they will poop on the ground.
(definantly a hen)
With this in mind start scouting a new area by slowly and quietly walking or driving the dirt roads. I say quietly because hunters often make the mistake that birds don’t listen well. That is not true, birds especially Turkeys and Pheasants have excellent hearing and can hear your vehicle, your stereo playing and you and your buddy talking as you’re driving. They can also hear everyone of your footsteps so keep this in mind; if they hear you walking and talking they will not answer you. Now as you’re walking or driving the outside areas of where you think there might be birds try not to go into the woods where they may be.
As you drive along or walk the roads look for turkey scat, tracks, dropping and feathers. When you locate where the birds have crossed the road listen for a couple minutes and then honk your horn or use a loud whistle. Blow it once real loud just once, and then listen if they are close they will answer back with an immediate gobble. If they are far away it will take a few seconds for them to hear the noise and then answer back and then for the sound of their gobble to travel back to you. If you hear them stop what you’re doing and determine what direction they are in and how far away they are and then leave them alone and go find some more. About an hour and a half before dark come back to the places where you have determined they are and using a pair of binoculars stand still and just watch the taller trees in the area usually from a higher vantage point. You will see the turkeys “go to roost” about sunset sometimes earlier. They will usually get into a tree that’s one of the taller trees in an area or the trees that have the stout limbs. Turkeys are heavy so they need bigger limbs to sit on. So it’s not so much the height of the tree as it is the requirement to have limbs that can support the turkey’s weight.
If locating them with binoculars doesn’t work, you will have to start walking. Look under the trees for turkey scat and feathers. You may even find areas where the big Toms have been strutting. This is generally a more open area with a lot of “J” shaped scat. If you find an area like this mark it on your map and plan on hunting it. If you are able to find roosting trees, plan on hunting these areas first thing in the morning. If you are able to locate roosting trees watch these trees in the evening hours and if you see birds in them watch them until dark. In the morning just before sunup sneak into the area and set up about 100 yards from the roosting trees. Put your decoys out and call very softly and the toms and hens should land near you. Then it’s all up to you and may your camo and calling work.
Camouflage is an absolute must for turkey hunting. That means your body your face and your gun. A shiny gun reflects like a mirror. Leave the pretty shinny guns at home and take your gramps old gun that doesn’t reflect anymore or use a rattle can to spray paint the shotgun green. When you do camo up, don’t forget to cover up the back of your neck, I see this mistake in hunting all the time especially waterfowl hunters. Turkeys (and waterfowl) like to circle around and look and look before they come in and if they are coming in from behind you and your flesh colored neck is flashing about then expect to be spotted.
More important than wearing camo is NOT WEARING RED WHITE OR BLUE anywhere on your body, especially your hat.
(male, red white and blue head)
The colors of a male turkeys head, neck and wattle (The wattle is the funny looking flesh hanging off their face) are Red white and Blue. Remember our First President wanted the National Bird to be the Turkey so Red, White and Blue colors on our flag. A hens head is a drab brown. I have read that there are more hunting accidents during turkey season than any other time of the year. I believe this to be true because of a couple reasons, number one incorrect camo, and wearing red, white or blue. Then some other hunter spots a piece of that color on you and shoots thinking it’s a turkey. The second thing is when we set up we always put our decoys out in front of us and then sit with our backs to approaching birds or hunters. Then another hunter hears you calling he starts sneaking in and because you are camouflaged he spots your decoy and blasts away. I can’t say this strong enough. Sit with your back against a tree wider than your own back and keep on the lookout for hunters. If you see another hunter approaching your decoys yell out to him in a loud voice and pick up your decoys and reset somewhere else. Turkey hunters really get aggressive about coming in on your call. I have had it happen too many times to count, instead of arguing over turf just set up somewhere else its already a blown deal.
(hen, no color total plain jane}
A couple of funny stories, once upon a time, my friend and I decided to go hunting with another guy and his son. We got up early and we hiked into some remote BLM land west of Redding. After walking every bit of a mile in the dark we split up and my friend and his son went one way and me and my other friend sat up just off the trail. At first light within just a few seconds of calling, a coyote comes flying into the decoys grabbing one of my hens and taking off with it shaking it like he was trying to kill it. He ended up dropping the decoy about 100 yards away and scattering a flock of turkeys that were about 50 yards out. After recovering the decoy we ended up setting up about a quarter mile away just off of a wide spot near this really nice trail. A few minutes into calling this lady runner dressed in her trendy running clothes comes running into the decoys, stops and starts trying to pet our decoys, we all ended up getting a good laugh out of it. Another time I hiked about 3 miles into a creek bed with a friend of mine and his wife who apparently has the ability to talk continually without ever taking a breath. It’s a long walk and we were planning on really getting some good turkey hunting in if she would ever shut up.
It was a Saturday and I had never seen anyone in this area before other than deer hunters. We sat up and started calling and within a few minutes we had some nice toms coming in. We had to wait for them to come under the fence from the private property and as soon as one did they suddenly busted out and flew away. It was the only time of the entire morning that my buddies wife was quite and that was only because she was sleeping so it wasn’t her fault they busted us. Then we figured it out. Two well dressed lady hikers who looked like they were strait out of a Cabela’s commercial came walking into our set up, I mean right into the middle and reached into a bush and grabbed a film container “Arrgh”, “Friggin Geotrekkers!” They obtained their new coordinates from the film container and off they went. You just never know what you’re going to see during turkey season.
When it comes to finding a place to turkeys it’s not too difficult. The difficulty is finding places that are not loaded with other hunters and still have a hunt-able population of turkeys.
So let me help. If you live in Northern California where can you find turkeys besides the same old places?
The area around Shasta Lake produces a lot of turkeys, but it is brushy and a lot of people get discouraged but don’t let that discourage you, trust me on this one, there are a significant amount of turkeys around that lake. Jones Valley, Gibson Road, Highland Drive, and the BLM land around Keswick have turkey. Muletown Road, and the Swasey area also have turkeys. The areas around Whitmore, Oak Run, Shingletown and Burney also have turkeys.
In Tehama county they hand out in the Plum Creek drainage, the BLM land near Bend and the west side of the valley east of Red Bluff.
The Clear Lake area has a significant amount of turkeys on both BLM and Private but unfortunately everyone seems to know it.
The truth be told, almost any area of low lying national forest or BLM land in Northern California will hold turkeys. Don’t get me wrong there are turkeys throughout most of your national forest and BLM lands in Northern California but the thicker and steeper the terrain the harder it is to find the birds and hunt them.
And I could regurgitate a bunch of public land BS that you read every year in magazines but why, it’s just misinformation or unconfirmed information at best so instead I am going to throw you a pitch that’s fairly easy to hit and that is “Wildlife Areas”.
Yes these little jewels are scattered all over the state and you would be surprised at what you can find hidden inside these places. First off let me start by saying “Stay out of Oroville Wildlife Area during Turkey Season” number one reason is that this is a draw area and unless you have a permit stay out. Second this place is a sanctuary for meth heads and criminal activity in general. I have witnesses firsthand what happens if you walk off from your vehicle and leave it parked here in the dark early morning hours. You will come back to find a broken window and your stuff gone.
With that being said, I have attached a link to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (old Department of Fish and Game) This link goes directly to their Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves. Some of these areas you can hunt and some of them you can’t. If they are a Type A or B area you need a Annual Pass or Day Pass and most likely need to enter a drawing. But for most of the Type C areas you can hunt them daily without a Pass. And keep your eyes open for Pheasants and Quail. Like I said you never really know what you’re going to find here and depending on where you live there is most likely a wildlife area you can hunt with a reasonable drive.
You can also hire a guide but that's truly expensive and it runs anywhere from $350.00 a day to $500.00 a day with no guarantee at a shot.
Instead put that money in the gas tank and hit the roads and scout for turkeys about a week before season opens. Grab yourself a box call or a mouth call at your local spot. The day you want to hunt sneak into your turkey spot an hour before shooting light and crack the first legal turkey you see. Then with the money you have leftover take the wife and kids to dinner and enjoy the day and above all don't tell anyone where you were hunting, unless you want to find them in your spot.